Rebels say warlordism, vote buying rampant in Abra

By SHERWIN DE VERA
www.nordis.net

BAGUIO CITY — The communist rebel forces operating in Abra province claimed that despite the different task force formed in the past to eliminate private armies and vote buying, the practice remains and continues to worsen in Abra.

In a 10-minute Facebook page video of the New People’s Army Agustin Begnalen Command uploaded on December 20, Florencio “Ka Bram” Baluga, spokesperson of the guerilla front in North Abra, claimed election in the province is “dirty and bloody.”

Screen grab from the Agustin Begnalen Command Facebook Page

Speaking in Ilokano, he said that only a few rich clans in the province are fighting for positions in the provincial level down to the barangays.

“No sinno ti adda ti turay bagida ti control ti pondo ti [internal revenue allotment] ken makontrolda dagiti kontrata ti proyekto kas ti inprastraktura ken pribilehiyo nga agganansya kadagiti kompania ti minas, dams ken logging,” he said.(Those who are in power control the funds from the IRA and also controls project contracts like infrastructures, and the privilege to profit from mining, dams and logging companies.)

This midterm elections, the ruling Valera-Bernos family will take on the tandem of Seares-Bersamin.

Incumbent Governor Maria Jocelyn Valera-Bernos is the sister-in-law of current lone district representative Joseph “JB” Bernos. She is also the daughter of the sitting mayor of Bangued, Dominic Valera. All three are running for re-election under the local party ASENSO and has recently clinched an alliance with Sarah Duterte-Carpio’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago.

Their opponents, all running under Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan are incumbents Dolores mayor Robert Seares, Jr and provincial board member Ana Marie Bersamin.

Ka Bram also pointed out that it has been the historical practice of politicians to use private armed groups (PAG) and money in the course of their campaign and rule.

Guns, goons and gold

“Gapu kadagitoy a pribelehio ti politiko, amin a paksion iti politika ket agpapigsa ti armas, kuarta ken impluwensia kadagiti private armed groups. Naruay nga agpastrekda kas CAFGU, CPLA wenno police auxiliary units tapno agbalin a ligal panangarmas kanyada,” the rebel leader explained. (Because of the privileges of being a politician, political factions strengthen their ranks through arms, money and building influence with armed groups. They recruit for CAFGU, CPLA or police auxiliary units for them to bear arms legally.)

In October, the Regional Police Office Cordillera (PROCOR) announced that it will closely watch the province during the midterm elections.

In an interview with PTV Cordillera, Police Superintendent Pelita Tacio by the state-run network that PROCOR will focus on dismantling armed groups and create the condition for fair elections in the province.

However, in the video, the rebel spokes accused the military, the police in the province of involvement of private armed groups and involved in running “guns for hire” syndicates.

This, according to him, is the reason why inter-agency taskforces created to rid the province of PAGs continue to fail.

“Gungundawayan dagiti politiko ti kinakurapay dagiti umili ti Abra babaen ti panaggatangda ti botos a dumanon ti 5000 ken agpangato karkaro no last minute ti panagbobotos,” Ka Bram added.(Politicians take advantage of the poor people of Abra through vote buying with price as high as P5000 and more especially during the last minute of voting.)

According to him, there are also experiences where “iyawat ti politiko ti kuarta a nakaipit iti mordong ti paltog” (politicians hand over the cash through the barrel of the gun) to coerce voters to accept the money and vote for them.

Election policies

“Agsipud ta narugit ken naranggas ti kagagalad ti reaksionario nga eleksion namentaken a rebbengen ti NPA a salakniban ti seguridad ken urnos ti umili a masakupan ti rebolusionario a gobierno laban iti riribuk ti warlordismo ken instrument daytoy a [guns, goons and gold],” Ka Bram declared. (Since the character of reactionary election is dirty and violent, the NPA’s urgent task is to protect the security and unity of the people in the areas under the influence of the revolutionary government against warlordism and its instrument — guns, goons and gold.)

He went on to enumerate the group’s guidelines for during the campaign period.
On top of the list of do’s and don’ts is for candidates to ask permission from the local NPA command before entering their areas of operation.

Screen grab from the Agustin Begnalen Command Facebook Page

Politicians are prohibited to bring guns, buy votes and bring military and police escorts, and members of the intelligence community.

Ka Bram underscored that electoral aspirants are expected to cooperate in checkpoints and recognized the right of the People’s Revolutionary Government to exact “access tax.”

“Ti panaglabsing daytoy a patakaran ket adda kabatog na a pannusa segun iti kalagan ken kadagsen ti epektona ti umili,” warned the rebel leader. (Violation of these conditions will be dealt with accordingly depending on its effect on the people). # nordis.net

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